Austin at Large: You Can’t Take Our Sons Away
On gun violence, white supremacy, misogyny, and fatherhood
My wife's parents lived for a long time in El Paso, not far at all from Cielo Vista Mall. I've been to that mall, now yet another killing ground, more than once, as has my son. Both of us – he's almost 23 now – carry at least some love for El Paso in our souls, unlike this asshole choad from Collin County who decided it was his right to drive halfway across Texas and shoot the place up. Fuck him.
My son's lived his whole life in the same place, here with his parents, but hell, I don't know what he's doing all the time. I wouldn't know if he was on 8Chan, though I'd be shocked if he was, since he thinks as I do and (I hope) you do about race and culture and gender as essential components of human dignity, and about the imperative for all of us to live with intelligence and love.
I do know he plays video games. I do know that he, and I, and lots of you, have lived lives with enough purpose and energy to get ourselves into scrapes where our mental health may get banged up. But we're not killers. And toads like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who want to yank out those bullshit excuses for crap like this – anything so they don't have to explain why they need cheap and easy guns so badly – well, they can go fuck right off too.
My son knows I'm writing about him. We talked about what the young white men who look like him are doing these days. He says you can tell who the chans and fashies and incels will be. It's the white boys who got through their middle-class boyhood and are his age now and have nothing going on. "They went off to play Division III ball at some directional school, and barely graduated from college, and now they're back."
Always Under a Little Bit of Pressure
My son says Austin, our fair and liberal city, is actually not a terribly fertile breeding ground for young white racist, fascist trash like this prick from Collin County – you have to go out to the edges of Williamson or Comal County to find those. But our town is, he cautions, a very productive petri dish for the worst strains of incel misogyny, those that infect the intellectual swamp in which wallowed this past weekend's other mass murderer – the dude in Dayton.
There are lots of those guys, and the young women in my son's life and cohort know it. They are always on guard, always under a little bit of pressure, to stay out of danger. They know, or hope they know, how to de-escalate and disengage from encounters with the wrong guys – often online, often unsolicited – without provoking harassment, abuse, or a deadly rampage. Usually, of course, they avoid the latter; the guys, feeling the freedom from consequence that comes with digital anonymity, simply call them horrible names and go. But this is what they deal with now: an ongoing terroristic threat.
That threat's larger than the spectre of gun violence, of the bloody madness that we're supposed to accept can happen anywhere and anytime. It's the sparks thrown off by repeated collisions with mindless white supremacy, toxic masculinity, complacent middle-class entitlement, that might blow us all up. Gun addicts shriek and freak about their rights being violated, filled with an anger that must feel better to them than whatever dark stuff it allows them not to feel instead – embarrassment? Fear? Weakness?
How We Should and Shouldn't Feel
The same smell, the flop sweat of self-willed victimhood, wafts off the incels and the MAGA boys. They think that here in Austin, young people of many colors who get to live free and fun adult lives, because that is what Austin does well, should have to pay the cover charge of meeting their needs first. If that duty is refused, then "those people" are breaking the rules. There are consequences for that.
Neither my son nor I own a gun. I've long felt I should never own one, for a bunch of reasons – personal, ethical, practical, spiritual. But we're not afraid of them, and we appreciate their appeal as tools, the craft that goes into them, the disciplines of marksmanship and sportsmanship. Having obvious rules in society that safeguard us from their misuse should not make anyone feel "less than," but clearly it does, as we see every time this bullshit happens.
The folks who feel so – who feel gun control, or equality, makes them weak, whatever their age – have long been attached to America's white-male-dominant cultural "mainstream." But it's become really hard to pretend that America looks like that, let alone should look like that, rather than like El Paso or Dayton's Oregon District. My son and I, and all the other white men who understand this, need to say so, all the time. Those other folks keep telling us they won't let us take their guns away. We can't let them take our sons away.